Like Button

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Are you sure you want to go there? II

Okay, I already tackled the dangerous topic of divorce (my first "Are you sure you want to go there?" topic). I lived. So, let's try another difficult one.

Masturbation. There, I said it. Now, is it right or wrong? Well, the first place a Christian should go to answer that question is the Bible. What does God's Word have to say about the topic? Truthfully ... not a thing. It is not mentioned once. Others have tried to link Onan (Gen 38:1-10) to the subject. Don't bother. Although some dictionaries still define "onanism" as "masturbation", that's not what was going on there. No, folks, not one word in the Bible on the subject.

What do we conclude? Well, some would conclude, "If the Bible doesn't say anything, it must be fine." A more careful person might say, "Well, it may not be good, but it is morally neutral." Unfortunately, the leap from "not mentioned" to "okay" is a bit too far.

Now, I don't want to create rules or place undue burdens on people, so I won't say, "It's a sin!" Here's what I'll offer. These are some of the things we find in Scripture:
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Rom 13:14).

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul (1 Pet 2:11).

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24).

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship (Rom 12:1).

You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Cor 6:20).
No, you're right. Not one mention of "masturbation". So I'm not trying to make a rule where there is none. All I'm trying to say here is that if you can engage in the behavior and still submit to these commands and concepts, then more power to you. Me? I'm just not seeing it ...


srp said...

Interesting discussion Stan. We recently went through a bible study where this was discussed and the outcome was pretty much the same as yours. Although on the surface it seems like a "victimless" situation, in particular in a marriage, it denies your spouse the right to exclusivity. This is particularly true in the case when accompanied by fantacies about other people. Consider also that masturbation may replace (or reduce) the desire to have sexual relations with one's spouse.

Stan said...

If you factor Onan into the mix, you wind up in a "disturbing" place. Onan wasn't executed by God for masturbation. That's nonsense. But he was executed by God. What for? The most likely answer is that Onan had sex with his deceased brother's wife for personal pleasure. Is it possible that that was what cost Onan his life?

Today's world views sex as "personal pleasure". Have it with your spouse. Have it with yourself. Have it with whomever you please. On the other hand, while the Bible does regard sex between husband and wife as pleasurable (see Song of Solomon), there is no instance in the Bible as having the pleasure of sex as the sole aim. Are we in the Church in the 21st century possibly buying a lie here on the topic of sexual pleasure?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for tackling a tough subject. I agree with your conclusion, and would add that we shouldn't participate in anything that controls us. Can someone do that and keep a pure heart and not let it be addictive?

And I can't help but notice that this verse comes right after the ones about adultery and lust: Matthew 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.


von said...

I believe that Onan was executed by God for adultery.

His 'marriage' to his new 'wife' was predicated on his raising up seed to his brother. In doing what he did he deliberately failed to pay the 'bride price'.

Thus he was essentially having sex with his brothers wife. Adultery.

And of course he was blasphemously tampering with Gods plan to raise up seed to Israel.

Not a good plan.

Stan said...


You're going to have to define adultery for me. If they weren't (legally) married, wouldn't it be classified as fornication? In what sense was it adultery?

von said...

Adultery: Sex with someone else's wife.

I realize my logic takes a minute to wrap ones head around. Let me see if I can try again:

1) The woman belonged to his brother (now deceseased) as his brothers wife.

2) However the living brother was required to sleep with his (deceaseed) brothers wife IN ORDER TO RAISE UP SEED for his brother (not shouting, just emphasis).

3) If he took her to his bed and had sex with her, yet in such a way as to violate the reason for that sex...

4) He was, essentially, having sex with his brothers wife.

Does that make sense?

Stan said...

I ... suppose it could make sense ... but it is a bit far-fetched to me. The suggestion would require, then, that they weren't actually married when Onan began the sex act; it would have been "marriage" if he had finished as he should, but he didn't. And since Paul makes it clear that "if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband", so she cannot be the wife of his dead brother. We call it "widowed".

I think I'm going to have to disagree with that view, but I'll give you high marks for originality. That's an explanation I've never heard.

von said...


So much of our modern marriage debate is predicated on our mistaken modern ideas about marriage.

Let me try again.

Onan was authorized, indeed required, to have sex with Tamar, his brothers wife. However the authorization of that sex required that he be doing it in order to raise up seed to his brother. Any violation of this... during the first coitus, the second coitus, or a year later... made this unauthorized sex with his brothers wife (ie, adultery).

Only once she had born his brother an heir did she become His wife in the sense that the sexual act was for his own purposes.

Suppose I saw you driving down our main street in my car. It could be that:
1) You have stolen my car or
2) You went by my house, one of my kids was deathly ill, for some reason your car didn't work, so you grabbed mine and are taking the kid to the hospital.

In both cases you took, and are driving, my car without my permission. However only the first case is 'theft'.

Stan said...

I understand that you view marriage different from most everyone else. I understand your conclusion about Onan. I still disagree with it. I am interested why you think this is the explanation when no one I've seen (including older commentators such as Matthew Henry or John Calvin) saw it this way. (John Gill chalks it up to "onanism" -- a ruling against masturbation.)

But, seriously, Von, you already have a site on betrothal because your views on betrothal are so far "out there". (Don't take that as me saying "wrong". That's simply an observation about the distance of your views from "the norm".) What you really need is a site on marriage. What could be more appropriate today, what with Christians not understanding it and same-gender couples thinking they can do it and even sympathetic folk like me not really understanding your view. I, for instance, still can't see how it's perfectly okay to engage in the act with Tamar who is not Onan's wife and it's perfectly okay with God who, to the best of my knowledge, only allows sexual relations between actually married couples. So you could do us all a favor by taking a chunk of time to clear that all up for everyone.

von said...

Well, I think my site on Betrothal *is* a site on marriage... just one bit.

More in a minute, but what Scripture says on this issue is:

Gen 38:8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
Gen 38:9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.
Gen 38:10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

A primitive root of doubtful meaning; used only as a denominative from H2993; to marry a (deceased) brother’s widow: - perform the duty of a husband’s brother, marry.

This is NOT the normal word for marriage.

And we read in the Law:

Deu 25:5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her.
Deu 25:6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.

So, Onans motivation was the exact same as that outlined in the law... he was opposed to raising up seed to his brother. He objected because the seed would 'not be his'.

The duty was not to 'marry' the woman in isolation, but to go in unto her (have sex with her) to raise up seed to his brother. He had the sex, but denied the seed to his brother. He used his brothers wife for sexual gratification in a was that was forbidden, that went against the 'marriage contract'.

von said...

I, for instance, still can't see how it's perfectly okay to engage in the act with Tamar who is not Onan's wife and it's perfectly okay with God who, to the best of my knowledge, only allows sexual relations between actually married couples

Perhaps I should state it this way...

She was his wife if and only if he was engaging in sex with her for the purposes of raising up seed unto his brother (or after he had done so).

Stan said...

You've said it multiple ways. I understand the ways that you've said it. I simply disagree. Here's what it seems you are saying: Onan committed adultery because he failed to satisfy his duty to his dead brother's wife. Since most husbands at one time or another fail to satisfy their obligations toward their wives ... well, you can see the implications.

But you said, "He used his brothers wife for sexual gratification ..." which was exactly my contention. He refused to satisfy his obligation to bear children with her (as God intended for the primary function of the sex act) but, instead, used her for personal gratification (as our society views the primary function of the sex act today).

von said...

Here's what it seems you are saying: Onan committed adultery because he failed to satisfy his duty to his dead brother's wife.


I will try again :)

Onan committed adultery because the only reason he was allowed to have sex with his brothers wife was in order to raise up seed to his brother. That was the condition upon which his marriage was contingent.

If I tell you you may rent my car if you pay me $100; and you take the car, drive the car, but don't pay me... you have stolen my car.

That is very different from a particular sin against your wife.

Just to clarify, I agree with you that sex is not meant to be a purely physically gratifying act. Indeed I believe in full quiver and think the story of Onan is a good *part* of that case.

I am just here explaining why Onans sin rose to such a high level... why I believe it should be classified as adultery.

In this case the obligation was not to the wife... it was to his dead brother... and it was the obligation on which his marriage was contingent. It was the bride price, as it were. Without it, she was not his wife.

Stan said...

Well, we'll obviously disagree on this. As I said before, though, "I am interested why you think this is the explanation when no one I've seen (including older commentators such as Matthew Henry or John Calvin) saw it this way."

von said...

I'm not sure:

a) that you understand what I am saying (since your summaries don't summarize) and

b) That Mathew Henry does disagree with what I am saying. He says:

Onan, though he consented to marry the widow, yet, to the great abuse of his own body, of the wife that he had married, and of the memory of his brother that was gone, he refused to raise up seed unto his brother, as he was in duty bound. This was so much the worse because the Messiah was to descend from Judah, and, had he not been guilty of this wickedness, he might have had the honour of being one of his ancestors. Note, Those sins that dishonour the body and defile it are very displeasing to God and evidences of vile affections.

Many of the words he uses here: 'abuse of his own body', 'vile affections' are indicative of what Christ and the NT authors use for adultery and fornication.

However I do believe that they, like we, are rather hung up on this 'marry' thing... the idea of some ceremony or rite... which occurs nowhere in Scripture.

Stan said...

Ummm ... okay ... but why wouldn't Matthew Henry use the word "adultery" if he meant it was adultery? All I see is that he and I agree with you that it was vile.

I am a bit surprised that you hold that no ceremony or rite of marriage occurs in Scripture ... even though one of the popular arguments today for marriage (against "living together") is that Jesus was at a wedding (implying endorsement of marriage).

von said...

Oh, don't get me wrong. There was a celebration, a feast, etc. etc.

What I am arguing against is a 'marriage rite'... a particular set of words or circumstances that make two people 'married'.

First of all the formal vows actually happen in Betrothal, not marriage.

Second of all, Scripture nowhere shows the church or the state being able to authorize marriage. It is the father of the bride who does that.

Stan said...

Interesting. So, in your view, people who do not have the father of the bride authorize the marriage (assuming that's even possible) and who do not have formal vows in Betrothal, but instead go through church and State ... are they actually married?

And in your circle of influence do you encourage couples who are married to have those marriages recognized by church and State?

von said...

Scripture lists no 'formal' vows for Betrothal. The permission of the father of the bride is betrothal, and authorizes marriage.

Yes, I would argue that those who do not (outside of certain other circumstances) have the permission of the father of the bride or his equivalent, are not married. They are committing fornication.

Stan said...

So, those who come into your church in this type of fornication ... are they required to "repent and repair the damage or leave"? Or is this a "don't ask, don't tell" situation?

von said...

Well, first of all I am not an elder, and am not involved in those discussions.

I just asked one of our elders (I hadn't seen this post) about their view on divorce and remarriage. Interesting discussion, no real conclusion.